July/August 2020 – Facing the Music

With a mission to inform, empower, celebrate and advocate for British Columbia's current and aspiring business leaders, BCBusiness go behind the headlines and bring readers face to face with the key issues and people driving business in B.C.

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only better wine but also stronger customer relationships. "When we start talking about organics and what we're doing in our vine- yards, you can see how interested they are," Brooker says, a theory playing out at the buzzing CedarCreek tasting counter. "People ask so many more questions." Iconic Wineries of British Columbia (a private company founded by B.C. wine pioneer Anthony von Mandl) is investing in converting all of its vineyards to organic— typically, at least a three-year process for land that's been conventionally farmed. Cold winters and hot, dry summers engender the manageable disease and pest pressure that makes tracts of relatively pristine Okanagan and Similkameen valley land well suited for growing grapes without chemical pesticides and herbicides. "The end game is if we can encourage more people in the valley to go organic," Brooker says. That shift could create a pow- erful wine tourism brand that other pres- tige wineries are embracing. Kelowna's Summerhill Pyramid Winery was the first in B.C. to be Demeter-certified biodynamic (a holistic farming method that embraces many organic principles); Phantom Creek in the South Okanagan is the first and only global winery to hire Humbrecht, a legend in organic and biodynamic winemaking, as a consultant. With about 4 percent of Okanagan vineyards currently certified organic, Brooker says, large producers can signifi- cantly move the needle: when all of his company's properties are converted, he estimates that organic vineyards could make up 17 percent of the valley. "In five years' time, I believe [the Okanagan] could be 50-percent organic," he adds. "It's such a tiny valley that we can be known as the greenest [wine] valley in the world." For smaller growers, potentially expen- sive and time-consuming certifications may be luxuries that can help earn consumer and retailer confidence but don't necessar- ily define their practices. "I applaud what organics are all about. But the truth is, we all know what we're doing to the land," says Will Hardman, the winemaker at family- owned Deep Roots Winery on the Nara- mata Bench. "We're being as sustainable as we can be on the farm side and making low-intervention wine," with as few addi- tives and preservatives as each harvest's conditions allow. "But I don't blame the consumer for not knowing exactly what the Hardman family in Naramata is up to," he says with a laugh. Sustainable Winegrowing British Columbia's new 2020 sustainability certification process will put its stamp of approval on bottles soon, reflecting grow- ing local and global interest in a common definition for wines that tread more lightly on the Earth. Last year, when the 2015 Little Pawn Chardonnay from von Mandl's premium CheckMate Artisanal Winery earned a rare perfect 100-point score, he called it a "cli- mate change–enabled wine." Presciently, Oregon climatologist Gregory Jones, a leader on the subject, had advised von Mandl's team that as California gradually warms, the Okanagan will become prime terroir for premium grape varietals like Chardonnay. Of course, climate change also brings potential weather-related challenges, including wildfires. Between seizing the opportunities presented by ideal grape cultivation conditions migrat- ing north and growing B.C.'s clean, green brand, the provincial wine industry sees a glass-half-full future. Next-generation wine Wine touring in many regions of B.C. still has a grassroots feel, with routes on Van- couver Island and in the Similkameen and Fraser valleys populated by modest tasting rooms where hands-on winemak- ing staff do the pouring. Increasingly, especially in the Okanagan, magnet win- eries with spectacular architecture, res- taurants and wine shops attract visitors by the busload. Besides Okanagan grand APRIL 2020 JULY/AUGUST 2020 BCBUSINESS 49 SOURCES: BRITISH COLUMBIA WINE AUTHORITY, BRITISH COLUMBIA WINE INSTITUTE B.C. GEOGRAPHICAL INDICATIONS 1990 4 2020 9 + 5 SUB GIs • Vancouver • Keremeos • Osoyoos • Kelowna • Salmon Arm • Kamloops • Lillooet Nanaimo • Victoria • Creston • Vancouver Island Gulf Islands Fraser Valley Similkameen Valley Okanagan Valley Other regions

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